Cycling Plus #3:
Bali is everything I expected, yet still it managed to surprise me. The
noise, wet heat, energy and friendliness of this tiny island leaves an
indelible impression. Beautifully sculpted paddy fields descend in
steps and ornate temples fill the villages. Stalls line the roads
selling exotic fruits and Balinese delicacies, mysteriously wrapped in
bundles of banana leaves. Women balance baskets expertly on their
heads. People wave and streams of children call out "Hallo!" as I cycle
Cycling in Bali...An Introduction to South East Asia
Cycling is an exciting way of seeing this island. Throw yourself into
the frenzy and weave in and out of pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds and
minibuses. Being the lowest in the Traffic Web, everyone has the
priority to run you off the road, particularly the trucks which lurk at
the very top. They have no natural predator! Minibuses stop abruptly
on a bend to scoop up passengers or cut across the road dramatically, to drop
someone off. Amongst all this chaos, a lone moped piled high with
parents and children might be seen winding its way through. It is
exactly this unpredictability that makes cycling in Bali so manic and
The enormous volcanic mountains that rise from Bali's belly loom tall
and foreboding in the distance, mist sitting thickly in their folds.
From their peaks, they command a sweeping panorama of the terraced paddy
fields and palm tress reaching far into the distance. After one long
battle to the crater lake village of Candikuning, I was rewarded with a
thirty kilometre downhill, dropping over 1.5 kilometres in altitude.
The road was so steep as it folded back on itself, that I felt I could
topple forward. Overtaking and being overtaken by mopeds, I looped my
way down. The clouds obscured any view, and as I descended, the mist
turned to droplets which finally evolved into heavy rain. The Balinese
place giant leaves on their heads whilst the worst of the showers pass.
But I cycled on, much to their amusement!
Bali is a small island and it is perfect for touring. Though potholed,
the roads are generally sealed, fairly smooth and flat around the coast.
Possum is handling well. Before leaving Oz, I replaced the Specialized
bottom bracket with a Shimano SDX unit. A small buckle in the rear
wheel causes the bike to jolt a little when braking, but the Mavic rims
are so strong that I hope it will not be a problem. Unlike the smooth
Australian highways, mud and dirt on the roads mean regular cleaning of
the chainset. This being the wet season, the rain is so heavy at times
that the roads are ankle deep in murky brown water.
It is hard to convey the friendliness and warmth of the Balinese people
despite the hard life they live. But it is this, and the combination of
breathtaking scenery, a rich culture and the particularly manic style of
Balinese driving that made this part of the tour an incredible
introduction to South East Asia.